Bearkat Community Gardens Embrace Nature
Oct. 22, 2018
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton
Written by: Ethan Eichhorst
Off Avenue M in Huntsville, the road turns to gravel. Passing two sports fields, the gravel grey road comes into a cul-de-sac and the fast-paced world of today disappears from view. It is there in the Bearkat Community Gardens that college students exchange the phone for a shovel, the screen-eye strain for sweat, and escape from the academic to embrace the natural.
Stepping through the high grass, feet sinking into the muddy ground, it is evident that students have been tilling the ground. Despite the constant noise from the ever-growing Interstate 45 river of concrete, there is land for planting and garden beds with all kinds of leaves and colors springing from the earth.
One person that has reaped the fruits of that embrace is Sam Houston State University senior Isabella Jeffrey.
“When you raise a plant from seed to finish, you become invested in the ‘life’ of the plant; you actually want to keep it healthy by checking on it regularly, watering it, weeding the area around it, and anything else you might have to do to keep it alive,” Jeffrey said. “Gardening has always been a huge part of my family, we’ve been growing crops for generations. Growing up, I remember helping my dad in our backyard garden as soon as I could walk.”
Isabella Jeffrey, inaugural manager of the Bearkat Community Gardens
Jeffrey served as a student worker in the Department of Agriculture when the community garden was in development. She has been involved since January 2017 when the gardens broke ground. In August of that year, Jeffrey became the inaugural manager.
“Even though I’ve been gardening for almost my entire life, I’m still exhausted after a day working in the gardens,” Jeffrey said. “It is a lot of hard, dirty work and a huge test of patience.”
Accompanying the heat, strenuous labor and early hours for Jeffrey is an unyielding drive.
“I know that every ounce of work I put in benefits not only myself, but countless others on campus,” Jeffrey said. “Knowing that I’m working to better my community makes every blister, fire ant bite and ridiculously hot day worth it.”
According to a recent university-wide survey, 46 percent of SHSU students are food insecure. Nationally, food insecurity affected nearly 12 percent of households in 2017, as found by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Bearkat Community Gardens partners with the Food Pantry@SHSU, the Good Shepherd Mission, Hospitality House and others at various times during the year to provide fresh grown food to those in need. In addition, the gardens support healthy and sustained eating in the Huntsville community.
“Huntsville, and the SHSU campus community in particular, suffer from really high rates of food insecurity, among other things,” Jeffrey said. “Evidence shows that poor nutrition and skipping meals frequently contribute to tons of health-related issues and can affect students’ daily performance. The gardens are here to provide a safe place to get some outdoor exercise, meet new people, and of course pick up some delicious veggies.”
The Bearkat Community Gardens is always looking for volunteers. Contact Jeffrey at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you’d like to get your hands dirty helping the community. For additional information about adopting a plant bed, go to shsu.edu/cce.
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